Identify vintage tuners

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by The EH Man, Apr 10, 2014.


  1. The EH Man

    The EH Man Proud Registered Supporter of Talkbass Supporting Member

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    I have an unusual Bartell 6-string fretless bass that I'm trying to get back into playing condition but I'm missing 2 of the original tuners. Can somebody help me identify these tuners and/or tell me where I might get a couple more (need 1 bass and 1 treble)?

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    I see a lot tuners that are similar but they have the slotted post instead of the drilled.
  2. Willicious

    Willicious Supporting Member

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    Those look like Kluson model 538 tuners. Commonly found on Gibson basses of the 50s and 60s, so those are the search terms that will work best with Google. Used sets turn up on Ebay now and again, often fetching $200 or more for a set of four, but I've also seen single tuners come up for sale on there, too. Best of luck with your search.
    Will
  3. The EH Man

    The EH Man Proud Registered Supporter of Talkbass Supporting Member

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    I think you hit it on the head. Thank you for your help!
  4. JoeWPgh

    JoeWPgh

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    Dec 21, 2012
    My 66 Guild Starfire had tuners that looked just like that. I eventually found some on ebay and restored the headstock just in time for it to be stolen :(
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  6. The EH Man

    The EH Man Proud Registered Supporter of Talkbass Supporting Member

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    Just for fun, here's the bass as it was when I got it.

    Attached Files:

  7. Willicious

    Willicious Supporting Member

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    Yep. I believe some earlier Rickenbacker basses may have used this tuner as well, before Rick tapped Schaller for their machine heads. So, OP, you may want to add Guild and Rick to your search criteria.
  8. Olde Axeman

    Olde Axeman

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    Middle Tennessee
    I believe the tuners in the photo are indeed Kluson 538's. The diameter of the post should be 3/8" as well. All that I've ever seen are reverse tuners (as is the one in the photo), meaning that they rotate directionally opposite of modern tuners. You can identify reverse tuners by the right hand thread of the worm. Modern non-reverse tuners use left hand worms.

    Again, I've never actually seen any but I've heard that Kluson tuners identical to the 538's, but in non-reverse configuration, exist. Perhaps a resident expert can confirm or refute that notion.

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